Local labyrinth leads to peace, meditation
A labyrinth behind Kearns Spirituality Center in Allison Park may not take people to a new, far-off destination, but it can transport them to a whole new place, spiritually and mentally.
A one-mile labyrinth that winds and curves through a circular pathway has been in the community since 2003. The idea for it was put forward by Sister Marian Senish of the Sisters of Divine Providence in Allison Park.
The Kearns Spirituality Center, the labyrinth’s home, is on the Sisters of Divine Providence campus off Babcock Boulevard.
Senish, 84, said she came up with the idea for a labyrinth a few years before the present one was installed. She said she pulled out the lawnmower one day and made a maze in the grass, which lasted for a few summers.
A former director for the sisters suggested they make a permanent maze, and with the help of volunteers, the labyrinth was created.
Senish said a Shaler resident, Bill Anney, was instrumental in creating the specifics of the labyrinth, calling him the “brains for the measurement.”
He did the dimensions, which he jokingly called “fifth-grade math,” Senish said.
They laid out black tarp and drew the design on it from the center out. Senish said the path was laid out with 10,000 bricks or so and can be accessed from the outside.
If a person starts on the beginning of the path, they follow the patterns of twists and turns until they arrive in the center, where a large petrified rock sits, complete with engravings and a coin that represents the Sisters of Divine Providence.
Kearns maintains it annually, said Senish.
It sits in a grassy, flowered courtyard behind the spirituality center. A donation box is available for funds to maintain it. And there’s a bell to ring once a person accomplishes the walk or begins it.
Martha Lubynsky, a program coordinator at the Kearns Spirituality Center, said the labyrinth is incorporated into many programs there.
Kearns Spirituality Center hosts a variety of programs, groups, retreats and more. It can be rented by outside organizations for meetings or events, and a chapel overlooking the convent’s vast hillside is a suitable backdrop for weddings, said Lubynsky.
She said the labyrinth can be used by anyone, and the center incorporated it into its Busy Women’s Retreat, which was held this month.
There is literature at the center explaining the purpose of the path, calling it a “prayer in motion.” There are several suggested ways of walking the path: in silent reflection, accompanied by music, or while meditating on a subject, Scripture or hymn. Some may repeat a meaningful word or phrase or use it as an act of thanksgiving and praise.
Senish, of Johnstown, said this “walking meditation” is good for solving problems or making decisions.
“When you’re trying to think something out, you just walk it out,” she said.
Senish has received a lot of feedback on the path, including from a visually impaired walker. The labyrinth features a path laid out in white bricks with its edges in red bricks. Apparently, the walker was able to stay on the path by touch, despite her visual challenges.
Senish has been among the Sisters of Divine Providence for 68 years and lives in an apartment at St. Ambrose in Spring Hill. She is still active in the community and attended the retreat this month.
A labyrinth is an ancient, sacred symbol found in many religious traditions throughout the world. During the Middle Ages, labyrinths were prominent in numerous cathedrals in Europe, where Christians walked floor labyrinths or traced their fingers along the carved ridges of wall labyrinths, according to the Divine Sisters of Providence website.
Religious and nonreligious people alike can meditate. “Anyone can come and see it and walk around it at anytime,” Lubynsky said.
Many may connect meditation with Buddhist and Christian monks, but it isn’t reserved solely for religious ascetics, Lubynsky said.
Curious walkers can visit the Summer Moon Salutations at the labyrinth, beginning May 19 for The Flower Moon from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The program features mixed-level yoga practice that builds stamina of body and mind, combined with a meditative walk of the labyrinth. There is a $20 fee. Other dates include June 16, July 14 and Aug. 18.
Senish suggests a great opportunity would be to start the path 15 minutes before midnight Dec. 31, so someone might literally “walk into the new year.”
The Kearns Center is having a matching gift challenge. If it raises $5,000, the benefactor will match it, said Lubynsky. This helps the center on many levels. For more information, contact Kearns at 412-366-1124. For more information about the Sisters of Divine Providence or to learn more about Kearns online, visit https://cdpsisters.org/kearns or Facebook.com/KearnsSpiritualityCenter.